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SAUNDERS v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

October 25, 2005.

THERESA WESTON SAUNDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND. NATWAR M. GANDHI, individually and in his official capacity as District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer, AND. EARL C. CABBELL, individually and in his official capacity as Supervisor, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COLLEEN KOTELLY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Theresa W. Saunders brings this action against Defendants the District of Columbia, Natwar M. Gandhi, individually and in his official capacity as District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer, and Earl C. Cabbell, individually and in his official capacity as Supervisor. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully terminated her employment in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985; her gender and age in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the Federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730. Before this Court is Defendant District of Columbia's 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim. Based on the reasons set forth in this memorandum, Defendant District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part, DENIED in part, DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE in part, and HELD IN ABEYANCE in part.

I: BACKGROUND

  This suit arises from the District of Columbia's termination of Plaintiff's employment in 2000. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 26. Plaintiff is an African-American female, born October 11, 1954, who had been hired by the District of Columbia in August of 1982. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 10. While employed by the District of Columbia, Plaintiff served as financial manager, controller, and Chief Financial Officer ("CFO"). Am. Compl. ¶ 16.

  In 1999, Plaintiff was asked by then District of Columbia CFO Valerie Holt to become Acting CFO for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer ("OCTO"), headed by Chief Technology Officer ("CTO") Suzanne Peck. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. While serving as Acting CFO for OCTO, Plaintiff alleges to have discovered and reported on numerous contract payment violations as well as an overall lack of internal control in management of funds connected to the District's Y2K project. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. In September 1999, Plaintiff forwarded to Ms. Peck a memorandum recommending a disallowance of more than $13 million against a claim filed by IBM. Am. Compl. ¶ 47. While Ms. Peck acknowledged the recommendation, no action was taken. Am. Compl. ¶ 47. Plaintiff alleges that after reporting on these inconsistencies, she became the target of reprisals and that Ms. Peck called for Plaintiff to be removed from OCTO and any OCFO position. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Plaintiff was reassigned as CFO of the District of Columbia Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board ("D.C. Lottery"), where she worked between October of 1999 and May of 2000. Am. Compl. ¶ 10, 14.

  In late May of 2000, Plaintiff was contacted by Stanley Jackson, the District of Columbia's Chief of Staff for the Chief Financial Officer. Am. Compl. ¶ 20. Mr. Jackson told Plaintiff that she was being considered as a candidate to become a member of the Special Projects Team ("SPT"), headed up by Defendant Earl Cabbell. Am. Compl. ¶ 20. On June 19, 2000, Plaintiff was informed by Mr. Jackson that she was being transferred to the SPT. Am. Compl. ¶ 21.*fn1 When Plaintiff informed Mr. Jackson that she was not interested in the staff position because it would require her to change from a management position to a staff position, Mr. Jackson told her that "it was either take the transfer or have no job." Am. Compl. ¶ 21. As a result of the transfer from CFO for the D.C. Lottery to SPT staff member, Plaintiff's salary was reduced. Am. Compl. ¶ 21.

  Plaintiff initially worked part-time at both SPT and the D.C. Lottery in order to ensure a smooth transition at the D.C. Lottery. Am. Compl. ¶ 22. Plaintiff reported to SPT full-time beginning on June 30, 2000 and worked at SPT for approximately three weeks. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 25. On July 25, 2000, Plaintiff was asked to meet with Lou Parker, who presented her with a separation letter, dated July 21, 2000, which was to be effective 30 days after receipt. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 26. Plaintiff was also then informed that she was immediately placed on 30-days paid administrative leave. Am. Compl. ¶ 26. The separation letter did not include a reason for her termination, it merely stated "[t]hat it is necessary to discontinue your employment with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) for the District of Columbia." Am. Compl. ¶ 26. Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on March 30, 2001 alleging sex discrimination. Am. Compl. ¶ 3; Plaintiff's Exhibit ("Pl.'s Exh.") A.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that her termination was both "directly and solely attributable" to her gender and her race and "pretextual in that the true reason for [her] termination was that the Defendants were aware that she knew of the Defendants' sloppy accounting procedures and fraudulent activities." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 35, 36. Plaintiff states that both Defendant Gandhi and Defendant Cabbell "did not believe in the appointment of females to CFO positions."*fn3 Am. Compl. ¶ 17. Plaintiff states that after her termination, she was replaced by a male. Am. Compl. ¶ 27.

  Plaintiff's Complaint essentially sets forth six counts that can be placed into three categories.*fn4 First, Plaintiff alleges racial discrimination based on 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 48.*fn5 Plaintiff's § 1981 claim is based on the discrimination she suffered in allegedly not being permitted to report to District of Columbia CFO Mr. Gandhi because of her race. Am. Compl. ¶ 30; Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant District Columbia's [sic] Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Motion to Dismiss ("Opp'n") at 16. Plaintiff's § 1982 claim is based on her discharge from the OCFO. Am. Compl. ¶ 36; Opp'n at 17. Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is based on the alleged deprivation of her property and liberty interests when she was terminated in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 42, 43; Opp'n at 17-18. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges a § 1985 claim based on Defendants' conspiracy to deprive her of her rights. Am. Compl. at 14. Plaintiff alleges that her discharge constituted gender and age discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 36, 48; Opp'n at 19. Plaintiff alleges that her termination was a direct result of her raising the issue of improper and fraudulent business practices in violation of the Federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 35, 36. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss is granted in part, denied in part, denied without prejudice in part, and held in abeyance in part.

  II: LEGAL STANDARDS

  Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss should be granted only if the "plaintiff[] can prove no set of facts in support of [its] claim which would entitle [it] to relief." Kowal v. MCI Commc'n Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (citing Shuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must resolve all factual doubts in favor of the plaintiff and allow the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences. See EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997). Notwithstanding this liberal construction, "the court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276; see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Since Plaintiff has attached exhibits to her Complaint, those exhibits are considered by this Court to be part of the Complaint, and will be considered in determining the sufficiency of the Complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).

  III: DISCUSSION

  A. Civil Rights Claims Plaintiff alleges civil rights violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1982 based on race discrimination, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on a deprivation of her liberty and property interest without due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985 based on a conspiracy to deprive her of her rights and privileges. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied as to Plaintiff's § 1981 claim, granted as to her §§ 1982 and 1985 claims, and denied without prejudice as to her § 1983 claim.

  1. 42 U.S.C. § 1981 Claim

  Defendant's primary argument in support of its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's § 1981 claim is that Plaintiff failed to make out a claim of race discrimination in her Complaint and pleaded only gender discrimination. Defendant District of Columbia's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Motion to Dismiss ("Memo") at 5. Defendant relies on case law, none of which is from this Circuit or the District of Columbia, indicating that when an attached document contradicts statements made in a Complaint, the document controls. Memo at 4 n. 2; Reply Brief in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Reply") at 1-2. Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Exhibit A, Plaintiff's EEOC discrimination charge, alleges only gender discrimination, not race discrimination. Memo at 4. Therefore, Defendant argues, Exhibit A is controlling and contradicts Plaintiff's allegations of race discrimination in her Complaint, resulting only in an allegation of gender discrimination, not race discrimination. Id. If Defendant's argument is to be accepted, this Court would have to dismiss ...


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